1996: Magic Johnson Returns To The NBA, Near Tripe-Double & Fakes Out Sprewell
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On this day in history, January 30th of 1996, the great Magic Johnson came out of retirement and played his first game since his magical All-Star game performance in 1992.
I’ll be honest, I was expecting Magic to look like the slowest guy on the court and Elden Campbell was on the court. I was wrong. Thankfully, very wrong.
The #2 all-time leader in triple-doubles messed around and almost got a triple-double (19 points, 10 assists and 8 rebounds) in just 27 minutes and faked out the fastest player on the court — Latrell Sprewell (yeah, I know Nick “The Quick” Van Exel was also in the game) — with one of the best ball fakes since the days of LA Showtime.
The Lakers would go on to beat the Warriors 128-118 despite 22, 8 and 7 from Spree and 23 points and 10 boards from #1 draft pick Joe Smith.
Their next game wasn’t so pleasant, as Magic and the Lakers faced off against Michael Jordan and a Chicago Bulls team with a 40-3 record. The Bulls won by 14 and the most memorable play of the game was a vicious block by Pippen on Magic.
Johnson would average 15/7/6 for the remaining 32 drama-filled games. The dramatic storylines included everything from Cedric Ceballos “taking a vacation” because he was reportedly upset over playing time and Nick Van Exel and Magic both getting suspended for bumping a referee in different games.
The Lakers did make it to the playoffs and were eliminated in the first round by Hakeem and the Houston Rockets. If it means anything, Magic was the Lakers’ best player for the series.
Since I don’t want to end this post on such a down note, let’s go back to one of the most enjoyable nights in Lakers history: January 30th of 1996!